Post-game Reactions

In what could be attributed to some fitting timing, Doc Rivers had his weekly appearance on WEEI this morning and took some hard hitting questions on his team’s pathetic performance yesterday evening. A few key excerpts:

On the team’s lack of fight last night:

“I thought they gave in as the game went on. Yeah, there’s no doubt, you can call it ‘quit’ or whatever,” Rivers said. “But I don’t think they mailed it in when they showed up. If you look at the first eight minutes of that game, I thought we competed. We missed every shot, every wide-open shot. …

When things went bad, I didn’t think we had a lot of resolve to fight it last night, and that was obvious, But when you watch the beginning of the game, the ball was moving. We missed wide-open shot after wide-open shot after wide-open shot. … What bothered me about it was as we missed shots we hung our heads more and more.” Added Rivers: “On the [defensive] end is where the breakdowns came. As the game got worse, our fight got less, and that bothers me.”

On the boos from the home crowd:

“Yeah, that was pretty good, and we deserved it,” he said. “Listen, I’m not a fan of booing anything. … But that was frustrating for the fans as well. I always think you support your team good or bad, but last night was so bad — and it’s rare where I’d say this — I had no problem with it at all.”

Any explanation for the team’s home woes?

“No, there isn’t. That’s a tough one to explain. We have played at times — we’ve been more comfortable on the road, which is unusual. … We just haven’t played well, bottom line.”

On how to get the team and players back on track:

Rivers said the team is focused on getting Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett healthy and back into the flow of things before the playoffs roll around. “We have 19 games to get them right. That’s the bottom line,” he said.

“Our best players have to be great for us to be a great team. And we have to figure out over these next [19] games whatever the best way is to get them there. If that means sitting them down for two weeks, we’ll do that. If that means playing them even though they may not play well, and maybe struggle through it, but get them more rhythm, then we’re going to do that. … That’s the key to our season. We have to get them right.”

A few thoughts about Doc’s final comments and any potential “changes” he might be referring to, after the jump

For better or worse, mostly for better, Doc had stood firm to his formula in the past 3 years in how he manages this team. He has kept to the same starting lineup (when healthy) and substitution patterns for the most part, always playing his starters together as much, if not more than any other team in the league the past few seasons.

In the past, this formula has worked, but this season due to injuries, lack of focus, regression in skill, whatever you want to call it, things have been thrown out of whack. This particular team, though having largely the same cast of characters, is a different animal.

Noting this, I have to admit it’s encouraging to see Doc is talking about shaking things up here. The only thing consistent about this team is how inconsistent they have been on both ends of the floor in the past three months. So what kind of changes could we see then?

Well, first Doc mentioned sitting someone down for a couple weeks as a possibility. My best guess is that he is referring to Paul Pierce here. The Truth has been belabored by multiple injuries the past few months and has been flat out ineffective since his return, averaging just 13.6 points and shooting just 38.6 percent from the field in his last 10 contests, down from 18 points and 47 percent shooting from before the All Star Break.

Perhaps even worse has been his defense which has been lacking on both perimeter and in cutting off dribble penetration. The lateral movement and effort has clearly not been there recently with Number 34. Other parts of his game has struggled as well with The Truth averaging just 2.3 boards per game in month of March, which is nearly half his season average.

I was speaking with Mike Gorman over this weekend at MIT and he pointed out to me how Pierce still did not look healthy to him. His numbers seem to back up that sentiment. One thing that is certain about Paul is that he is a gamer and he appears to be frustrated right now with his own play and lack of rhythm.

The fact he was pressing for large portions of that Milwaukee game goes to mind as a good example of him trying to do it all without potentially being all the way back at full strength yet. His body is not letting him do the things he wants to offensively and it sure seems like he’s been hurting this team just as much defensively lately.

So what should Doc do? I say rest him for a few games. With Michael Finley in uniform now, you have enough depth at the wing position to not have to overly tax Ray Allen’s minutes with The Truth out. Let the guy recharge his batteries, heal any lingering effects from his knee, foot, thumb injuries as much as he can, to allow him to help this team as much as possible when it matters.

By sitting out now, Paul can rebuild his rhythm in the final 10-15 regular season games, to allow him to peak for the playoffs, rather than gut out the last 20 contests and heading into the playoffs bruised and battered.

The other player who has been consistently terrible lately is Kendrick Perkins. After a terrific first couple months, Perk has reverted to a his 2007 form, showing flashes but ultimately unreliable on the offensive end.

That was good enough for that team to get by, but it is not for this one. He is scoring only 8 points and even more alarmingly just 5 rebounds per contest in his last 10 games. He also has not provided a strong interior defensive presence, again an issue given KG’s regression in that department, athletically speaking.

So what does Doc do with Perk? I’ve read in some places, calls to bench him and start Sheed in his place, which is a bit ironic to me, considering how much everyone was calling for Wallace’s head the first 50 games. Early on this year, Sheed was the only major problem on this team. Starting Wallace right now would you give you a front line of two AARP members, one of which can’t move around well and the other who just doesn’t like to. Not a good formula.

This reality makes me think Doc is referring to Perk as someone who needs to struggle through it, while not playing well, in order to find his rhythm and confidence again. On both ends of the floor, this guy has lost his way right now. It’s not an injury (as far as we know) and it’s not his age or mobility.

Perk has shown he can step up. He needs to rediscover that ability and become a force once again on both ends for this team to get back to the top level of the league. I say play him 30-35 minutes out there. Push him through the lull and give him enough time out there to make good things happen again.

Again, this a lot of speculation here. There are a lot of fingers that deserve to go around in pointing out the team’s latest struggles. Don’t expect wholesale changes by Doc Friday night in Indiana, just some additional rest and run for those who need it most. There’s still time here folks to get things right. The problem is, the margin for error is very, very slim with this team.

“Our best players have to be great for us to be a great team.”

It’s a simple sentiment, but one that rings very true with this squad. The bench can provide a spark all day long, but it’s going to come down to the starting five for The C’s to do anything. This team needs at the very least, 4 of 5 of the players on that unit to be playing well in order to compete. Recently, it’s been 1 or 2. That’s not going to cut it with this squad.

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Brian Robb

Brian Robb co-founded CelticsHub in 2009 and is the currently editor-in-chief. He is a producer and reporter at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and also contributes to Boston.com and Bleacher Report among other outlets.
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  • steve

    Regarding Perk’s play lately. I agree he definitely seems to have regressed offensively. Early this season he seemed to have developed a few nice low post moves and was scoring more. That is no where to be seen lately. As far as the defense I still think Perk has it going. I know there are centers that have given him fits but not many. What you often see is Perk being the last line of defense, rotating to cover the guy that just blew past his man and then leaving his man and looking bad. I know he has his lapses on defense but I think overall he does a great job down there but always has to worry about more than just his man.

  • DRJ1

    Paul’s physical condition looks great to me. It’s only his shot that’s still coming back. On D, in the Bucks game, he looked VERY active, very much back to normal. I don’t see the problem there. If he were not physically ready, he could not have been that active. I don’t see how you can say his body’s not all the way back yet.

    Note: Last night, though, Paul’s shooting was not bad. 60% from deep, 50% overall is not bad. If he keeps this up, he WILL be back.

    KG is doing extremely well, physically, btw.

    Perk — now that’s definitely a problem. For reasons I cannot fathom, his game has deteriorated to the point where he’s way below par for a center in this league. He needs help. How or why, I don’t know.

    Rondo has some problems, but there’s no possible replacement, so that’s that.

    Bottom line about Doc: He’s not a guy with a lot of imagination. He likes to set a direction and keep going. I do not believe he’s going to change anything. He’s put him money down on the team he has, and he’s gonna ride it to the end, the way it is. That’s my bet.

  • Jason

    While things are crappy now, how do you explain everything up till Christmas? This team was dominant then and now it has Baby and Nate.

    On offense there are two problems. One, just lots of missed open shots. Doc mentioned this for the Memphis game, but it’s been happening a lot more than just that game. It’s getting really ridiculous. How much is it bad luck/streak and how much is declining talent? How could the team decline that much, that fast? Two, stagnation/sloppiness. I think this is on Doc’s coaching, but also on the players’ “boredom.”

    Defensively, again I see it as effort or “boredom.”

    The problem with the boredom excuse is aren’t they sick of losing? Shouldn’t they be taking games seriously again by now?

    I really feel the true level of this team is more December than March. Are they pulling a Spurs, where they stroll through the season then show up strong for the playoffs? That’s what I’m hoping, but it’s been really frustrating living through it.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    Doc making changes…..as if…..fool me once shame on you….fool me twice….I’m off of that turnip truck…

    But I have a heartwarming story to share. You never know. Paul, KG, & Ray Ray may actually read this site at times—-especially if they want to be winners like us.

    Once upon a time there was a very talented PG. He was drafted high & actually panned out. He lead a team to the finals. Then, he grew older, got injured, & was banished from the northern kingdom, I mean he got traded. In subsequent playoffs he looked horrendous & painfully slow. CP3 (not the robot from star wars) made him look like some sort of fossil. Methought he would just hang it up & retire, but thankfully, now he looks better than before. He is 36 years old (older than our boys, Ray is 34) & his FG% is up from a career of 40% to 43% 3pt avg up from a career of 35% to 42% free throws up from 78% to 80% even his assists are slightly up to 9.4 while his turnovers have actually gone down!!! He is even blocking more shots! Who is this fair prince?

    Jason Kidd! His team was really struggling the other night so he played 44 minutes (more than any other Mav, & he is 36!) & filled up the stat sheet to lead the Mavs to their 13th straight win (matching the nba’s longest winning streak this season).

    Kidd is several years older than Ray, KG, & Paul so maybe he can inspire them or maybe they can call Kidd up & get on the same vitamins.

  • Will Wall

    Its quite true that Perkins and Pierce have both struggled lately. Perkins in particular though.

    Perkins doesnt seem to have the elevation and decisiveness that he had earlier in the season that enabled him to be so effective.

    Another person who hurts the Celtics more than he helps out is Marquis Daniels… The only thing Marquis can do is pull up from mid to short range. Yeah he can rebound, steal, and pass but he does all those things quite mediocrely and he is just as turnover prone as Tony Allen. It is really hard for him to avoid traveling when trying to set himself up with a shot from close range.

    I think the way foward for Doc is straightfoward. Cut minutes from the guys who arent producing… with less minutes being shared guys will establish their roles better and we can get some chemistry flowing again

    Doc himself says that he wants to cut the rotation to a 9 man ordeal by playoff time. Might start working out the final rotation over the last 19 regular season games… Look what happened at BBD’s production and consistency last year once he got increased minutes and an established role

    Ive really liked what ive seen so far from Finley

  • Bubbles never fails to amuse.

  • Jay P

    Daniels plays short minutes, and with Finley now, we may see those even go further south.

    I’d say all in all Daniels has been a disappointment since coming back from injury (he looks great earlier in the year) but then again… the exact same is true for every single person in this team.

    Maybe we need Sheed to play bad, cause he sucked at the start of the year and the team was fantastic. Now he’s playing much better, and the team sucks. Ironic.

    I think Kidd’s new workout regiment has helped him, ya know, all those swings at his wife built arm strength up over the years.

    Ooooh… sorry, shouldn’t go there? Whatever, I don’t care of he’s a good Basketball player, he’s a worthless individual and deserves no respect from anyone.

  • Trashandsend

    Face it, Doc hasn’t the mental flexibility to coach young guys who need pointers and playing time to build confidence (think Walker, probably Perk and Shelden, maybe Rondo too), or old guys (think the less-big 3). Who called the last play against Milwaukee, a Pierce iso despite Pierce being slow, weak and liftless.

    Circumstances change quickly, Rivers slowly. Bad fit. Waiting (hopefully) for a new coach and some leggy players next year. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong.

  • Arvin

    I have been a Celtic follower and fan for 30 years. The current team is not only old, but does not show the passion for the game that our championship team showed. We also do not have the young talent to help “pick up” the elder statesmen. I am hoping for a playoff push that could lead us into the Eastern Conference Finals, but I don’t see it happening.
    We are missing open shots because we lack a low scoring option. KG is no longer a low post scorer. Perk has been erratic. Until recently, Sheed has wandered outside the 3 point line. We used to go inside and set up our 3 point shooters. Now, we just rely on our 3 point shooters and when they are off, we are in trouble.
    I am looking forward to next year to see where Danny will take this team . . .

  • I love Green

    Aww crap I gotta say it. No nevermind I can’t, welllllll okay you convinced me. Our core players are too old, which means our core players aren’t very talented anymore. KG, Pierce, Ray, and Sheed. When we blow leads at the end of games, or like last night get blown out from the beginning of games against young teams, thats just age/lack of talent.

    Ahhh that was painful. Im going to crawl into a hole now. Sorry guys

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  • hallik

    Glen “Fat A$$” Davis
    Tony “cant hit the ocean” Allen
    Brian Scalabrine (He Plays, hard, useless though)

    Blow the team up!!
    I’m just mad…I dont think we are getting out of the 1st round!